Fireside #2, Summer 2012
“The Heart of the Story” by Kat Howard
“Perspective” by Jake Kerr
“An Honest Mistake” by Brian White, Steve Walker, and Frank Cvetkovic
“Scarred” by Damien Walters Grintalis
“Rhapsody in Blue Shift” by Stephen Blackmoore
Reviewed by Chuck Rothman
Fireside is a new professional quarterly ezine that touches bases with science fiction, fantasy, and graphic storytelling.
The issue starts out with “The Heart of the Story,” set in a city that has grown up from stories: stories have created it, and much of the description is in literary terms. Arachne is a woman in this city, who discovers a bookstore and goes inside. The writing here is strong, and Kat Howard uses some interesting language and clever phrases throughout. The problem (ironically given the title) is that there is no story in the story. Arachne wanders in the bookstore and sees things, but it doesn’t lead to any conclusion, just metaphor and description. This is a conceit, but there is no story or characterization or anything else but pretty words.
On the other hand, Jake Kerr‘s “Perspective” has plenty of story, and it’s one of the best I’ve read all year. The narrator is a near-recluse after the death of his wife, but his son Jeffery is in trouble with the police for “tagging” buildings with black molecular paint that can’t be removed. Jeffrey is arrested for making random designs all over the city and, despite his father’s pleas, goes out to do more. The story is about loss and family, and the ending is absolutely perfect, coming out of nowhere to hit you with plenty of emotional power. This would be the highlight of any magazine.
“An Honest Mistake” is a graphic work, written by magazine editor Brian White with art by Steve Walker and lettering by Frank Cvetkovic. The zombie apocalypse is on hand and Gil is battling against the living dead. Only things are not that simple. The concept is only mildly interesting and the story meanders (despite its brevity) and goes for a gross out that Robert Bloch was doing in the 1940s. I was not impressed.
Damien Walters Grintalis shows a more frightening form of horror in “Scarred.” Violet’s body is covered with scars, the remnants of a dark secret: a spirit that emerges when she cuts herself in order to get revenge on those she is angry with. The spirit is seductive, trying to get Violet to release it and her anger, as she struggles to deal with it. A strong piece of horror with a Twilight Zone kicker at the end that tiptoes around the question as to what is good and what is evil.
The final story, “Rhapsody in Blue Shift” by Stephen Blackmoore, is a hard SF ghost story with an appearance of George Gershwin on a spaceship. Sid is a janitor on the ship, which has been pressed into service as a refugee ship, when Gershwin shows up and warns him of trouble about to occur. Sid has never heard of him, and gets in a good deal of trouble for following his directions (though I can’t see why; it seems very arbitrary that the captain reacts the way he does). The story is a good one, but I was left with the question: why Gershwin? I’m a fan, but the role could have been filled by just about anyone. But I liked Sid as a character and the story is good fun.
Overall, this is quite a good issue. The weaknesses are more than compensated for by the strengths.